Senior Airman Frances Gavalis tosses unserviceable uniform items into a burn pit at Balad Air Base, Iraq, in 2008. The military destroyed uniforms, equipment and other materials in huge burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some veterans say those pits are responsible for respiratory problems they are now experiencing. (photo: Senior Airman Julianne Showalter/USAF
|Daniel Hajek and Arezou Rezvani | NPR | Reader Supported News | December 18, 2015
n 2008, Army Reserve Capt. LeRoy Torres returned home to Robstown, Texas, after a tour in Iraq. He went back to work as a state trooper with the Texas Highway Patrol.
Torres was a longtime runner. So when a suspect took off on foot one morning, Torres sprinted after him. But something was wrong. A burning sensation in his chest hurt so bad, it almost knocked him down.
“I was able to catch up, but afterwards, my goodness, I remember just — I laid on the ground, I was so exhausted,” Torres says. “One of my buddies said, ‘Man, what’s wrong?’ I said, ‘Man, I don’t know. I just feel really, really tired — my chest feels really tight. I don’t know.’ I couldn’t catch my breath.”
A few years later, Torres was diagnosed with a rare disease called constrictive bronchiolitis. Scars in his lungs block the flow of air.